NEW Survival Guide

Yes folks, it’s announcement time… I am officially revealing that my next book is The Human Body Survival Guide!

This follow-up to The Australia Survival Guide, is keeping the feel and approach of the first, but with a very different topic. It is particularly focused on all the gross stuff. So this book is full of poo and wee and puke. It has secretions as well as excretions. It is swarming with lice and worms and nematodes and those teeny-tiny mites that live in your eyelashes. It is infested with bacteria and viruses and fungi and protozoa. Oh yeah… and there’s also some info in there about blood and brains and muscles and bones and that kind of stuff. (BTW… that’s my wife’s brain in the pic.)

I handed the draft in to my publisher on Monday. There’s still a heap of work to do, with editing and fact checking. Then there’s all the design. So it will be a while before it hits the shelves. It’s been scheduled for October 2020.

Researching this book has been interesting, although there have been a few TRAUMATIC moments. NEVER do a Google image search on necrotising fasciitis. There are things that cannot be unseen. But on the whole it’s been fun!

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The reviews are in

The Australia Survival Guide, my first foray into commercial non-fiction, was published by Puffin Australia on 1 October 2019. And I was nervous. Seriously nervous! After all, I’m known for writing fiction, mostly science fiction, fantasy and OTT action/adventure. Yes, I’ve written loads of educational non-fiction, but that’s a completely different market. So this book was quite a departure for me.

I’ve been holding my breath, hoping that readers will like it, hoping that it will sell well.

But I’m starting to calm down now and feel a little more confident. The book has had heaps of reviews and OMG… the reviews have been amazing. Seriously, I am over the moon.

So, here’s a little taste of what people have been saying, starting with my favourite one…

“George Ivanoff is not just a pretty face. Under that luxuriant  mop of ever-changing hair there’s an inventive and clever brain which can produce not only awesome adventures of the fictional kind for readers but now the ultimate field guide to surviving in the harsh reality of the Australian landscape.”
Just So Stories
Read the whole review

“Humour is used to great effect throughout, making this important information entertaining and accessible. You can tell that Ivanoff had more than a little fun writing this book.”
Better Reading
Read the whole review

“The author cleverly uses a fictional 13-year-old boy who’s reluctantly travelling around Australia with his family as the book’s narrator. This highly relatable character plays a large part in dispelling the fear factor for readers 9+ years.”
Reading Time
Read the whole review

“Celebrate all that is Australia with its quirky flora, fauna and environment in this fun yet educational book perfect for primary schoolers.”
Kids’ Book Review
Read the whole review

“From the author of the interactive You Choose series, comes a reference book with a modern twist.”
“Ivanoff has created a reference book that speaks to the screen dominated youth of today.”
Magpies
This is a subscription magazine. Check out their website.

“Every page is filled with interesting and sometimes fascinating facts. One could imagine the target market for this book – children aged from nine years plus – spending countless hours reading and dipping into the 175 pages.”
Buzz Words
Read the whole review

“With its practical nature, appealing layout and focus on things that fascinate, it could be the perfect foundation for Term 4 investigations.”
The Bottom Shelf
Read the whole review

“I liked the book because it has lots of fact boxes about different animals. I think this book would suit both boys or girls aged 7 to 11.”
Alphabet Soup – reviewed by 7-year-old Rory
Read the whole review

As well as these fab reviews, here are a couple of interviews/guest posts I did about the book…

And to top it all off, when I attended StoryArts Festival Ipswich, The Australia Survival Guide ended up being the best selling book of the festival.

Keep an eye on my blog for the upcoming announcement about the new Survival Guide I’ve been working on.

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Return of the GAMERS

Zyra is coming back!

Tark is coming back!

The GAMERS trilogy is coming back!

My first trilogy of novels is set to be rebranded and rereleased March 2020 with Ford Street Publishing. AWESOME new covers have been created by the amazingly talented Matthew Lin. And the books have new individual titles that are a little more snappy, contemporary and game-ish.

Here’s a teaser…

Can’t wait to do a full reveal of the covers. Watch this space!

I am so excited about this!

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Ipswich StoryArts 2019

I love a good literary festival – both as a writer/speaker and as a reader. The StoryArts Festival Ipswich, is one of the best. And I was lucky enough to be invited along.

Five days worth of amazing book-related programming for kids. That’s right (write)… FIVE DAYS! How cool is that! The program was divided between the sprawling estate of Woodlands of Marburg and a number of venues in the city of Ipswich. Of all the festivals I’ve done over the years, this is the one at which I’ve had the largest number of sessions… four sessions on one of the days and then three sessions a day on the remaining four days. So I had the chance to speak to waaaaaaaaaaay more kids than I would normally at a festival. What an AWESOME opportunity! And a privilege. I loved every minute of it.

With such a full-on schedule, it did mean that I was unable to see many of the other presenters, because I was usually presenting at the same time they were. Having said that, I did manage a few. Valanga Khoza spoke and sung and played instruments and generally held the audience in the palm of his hand at the festival reception. Such an incredibly talented performer and captivating storyteller. He even enticed the other authors and illustrators onto the stage to sing with him. I also had the pleasure of catching his kids’ session. Wow! The way he interacts with children is so wonderful. They were enthralled. I only managed to sit in on one other session – a presentation/workshop conducted by illustrator Frane Lessac… such a joy to watch her in action.

The official bookshop for the festival was A LOT OF BOOKS. And boy-oh-boy, did they have a lot of books. These guys were amazing, setting up book stalls in multiple locations for the festival and stocking massive numbers of books for each speaker. Check out their website.

Official stuff aside, I managed to catch up with other presenters at dinner and between sessions, getting the opportunity for a bit of industry chat and maybe a little gossip (no, I’m not telling). And I had the joy of being introduced to authors/illustrators/books I hadn’t previously encountered. BIG shout out here for OLIVER’S GRUMBLES, written by Yvonne Mes and illustrated by Giuseppe Poli. Such a gorgeous picture book!

All up this was a pretty FAB experience! HUGE thanks to Jenny Stubbs and her tireless team of volunteers.

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Strewth

Strewth!

It’s Publication Day for THE AUSTRALIA SURVIVAL GUIDE! Bruce and I are celebrating in the true blue Aussie way… with Tim Tams and Vegemite. The breakfast of champions.

Bonza, mate!

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Survival Book Trailers

Here they are… my 4 short book trailers for THE AUSTRALIA SURVIVAL GUIDE, which will be in bookshops from Tuesday 1 October.

I had way too much fun making these. Huge thanks to my wife, Kerri, for directing them. And a shout out to my daughter, Lexi, who features in the beach trailer.

And I’ve saved my favourite for last…

For those of you who are interested, the trailers were shot on an iPhone XS and edited on a MacBook Pro using iMovie.

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Farewell Terrance Dicks

A couple of weeks ago, one of my writing heroes passed away. Terrance Dicks was best known for his association with Doctor Who. He was a script editor and writer on the classic series. He also wrote dozens of the Target novelisations. And he continued to write Doctor Who stories after the series was revived, his final one to be published soon in Doctor Who: The Target Storybook.

Since his death, I’ve watched the tributes and reminiscences flood over social media. It seems that he had as great an influence on many other writers as he did on me.

Candy Jar Books, the publishers of the Lethbridge-Stewart series of Doctor Who spinoff novels, have put together Terrance Dicks – A Tribute. It’s a free PDF available from their site with contributions from Gary Russell (writer/editor/producer), John Peel (writer), John Levene (actor – Sergeant Benton in Doctor Who) and many others. You can download the PDF here.

I was honoured to be able to contribute a short piece, which I am also including here on my blog.

Forever in your debt

“Kriz was dying.” [Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius]

“It moved through the silent blackness of deep space like a giant jellyfish through the depths of the sea.” [Doctor Who and the Claws of Axos]

“The planet was alive.” [Doctor Who: The Planet of Evil]

Terrance Dicks knew how to grab a young reader with his first sentence and keep them reading, desperate to find out what happened next, unwilling to put the book down until every last word had been devoured.

As a kid, he inspired me to read, with his Doctor Who novelisations. I hung on his every word.

As a kid, he inspired me to write. After reading his books, I began to write my own Doctor Who stories. Yes, they were pretty dreadful bits of fan fiction, but they taught me that writing could be fun. Such an important lesson.

So then I grew up and became a writer. And Terrance Dicks continued to inspire me.

I would read his work and see the genius of its construction. His carefully worded opening sentences and paragraphs, designed to hook in the reader. The shorthand descriptions that immediately brought characters to life within the short word-count of a Target novelisation. The way he provided insight on motivations and the way he expanded stories beyond the budgetary limitations of the television series.

I would look at his career and marvel at his professionalism and his ability to produce so much while maintaining quality and enthusiasm and a love of his craft. Something I strive for in my own career. He became my writing hero.

Now, when I run school writing workshops that focus on structure, Terrance Dicks always gets a mention. I read out what I believe to be one of the greatest opening lines, ever.

“Through the ruin of a city, stalked the ruin of a man.” [Doctor Who and the Dalek Invasion of Earth]

Although the man is now gone, his writing remains. I can pick up and read his words whenever I want. I can recommend his books to other readers. I can use his words as an example when I am teaching.

I never met Terrance Dicks. I never knew him as a person. But I knew him as a writer. And to that writer I would like to say…

You inspired me to read.
You inspired me to write.
And for that, I am forever in your debt.

But the final words, I shall leave to Terrance Dicks, the writer…

“The doors closed, there was a wheezing groaning sound, and the TARDIS faded away.” [Doctor Who and the Brain of Morbius]

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I was on BBC Radio!

It’s not every day that one gets the chance to act for the BBC. But last Sunday night, at 6pm, my dulcet tones graced the airwaves of BBC Radio 4 as Scribe in “A Verb of Nouns”, the third episode of the second season of Night Terrace.

Night Terraceis an Australia sci-fi comedy audio series that stars Jackie Woodburne from Neighbours. It’s had heaps of famous guest stars over the course of its two seasons, including Jane Badler (V), Louise Jameson (Doctor Who), Alan Brough (Spicks and Specks) and Lawrence Leung (Sucker). Season 1 debuted online in 2014 and Season 2 in 2016. It won the 2015 Aurealis Convenors’ Award for Excellence and gained many fans over its run.

It was originally available only for purchase. But earlier this year it was picked up by the BBC to be broadcast on BBC Radio 4, with each episode then available for 30 days on BBC iPlayer.

As a fan of the show, I was delighted and super excited to be cast in a guest role during its second season. I had so much fun playing a wonderfully mysterious and manipulative character with a silly voice. And now, for that episode to be on BBC Radio is really rather astonishing to me.  But pretty cool!

So a BIG thank you to the BBC.

And a BIG thank you to the Night Terrace producers.

And a BIG thank you to anyone who may have listened to the ep.

If you want to know more about Night Terrace, and perhaps purchase the entire series (it really is worth it), check out the official website.

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Survival Guide Cover Reveal

I am currently poring over page proofs for The Australia Survival Guide, which goes off to the printers on Friday. But I’m taking a short break to officially reveal the cover. Feast your eyes on this…

It will be hitting the shelves on 1 October 2019 under the Puffin imprint from Penguin Random House Australia.

I. Am. So. EXCITED!

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REAL awards 2019

FIVE YEARS! Five years in a row! I am absolutely floored!

The REAL awards shortlist (which feeds into the YABBAs in Victoria, the KOALAs in NSW and the KROCs in the Northern Territory) has been announced and You Choose: Alien Invaders From Beyond the Starsis on it, in the “Fiction For Older Readers” section. It is the fifth time that a You Choosebook has made the shortlist, and the third time for You Choose: Alien Invaders From Beyond the Stars.

I am so honoured to be sharing the spotlight with these amazing books on the “Fiction For Older Readers” shortlist:

  • 52 Mondays by Anna Ciddor
  • Fearless Frederic by Felice Arena
  • Finding Serendipity by Angelica Banks
  • Funny Kid For President by Matt Stanton
  • Help Around The House by Morris Gleitzman
  • Nevermoor: The Trials Of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
  • So Wrong 2 by Michael Wagner & Wayne Bryant
  • The 104-Storey Treehouse by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton
  • The Forgotten Pearl by Belinda Murrell

Of course, there are even more great books across three other sections: “Picture Story Books”, “Fiction for Younger Readers” and “Fiction for Years 7-9”. Check out the full shortlist.

You may notice that You Choose: Alien Invaders From Beyond the Stars has a pretty AWESOME cover. That would be the work of Mr James Hart. James and his artwork are what make these books stand out on the bookshop shelves. Thanks James!

Kids do the nominating and voting in these awards. No grown-ups! That’s pretty cool! So to all the kids who nominated my books over the last five years…

Thank you!

Thank you!

THANK YOU!

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Warning: Australia is trying to kill YOU!

We have more venomous snakes than you can poke a stick at. We have creepy-crawly spiders that can sneak up on you. We have crocs and sharks with really big teeth in our waters. We have raging bushfires and unexpected floods. We have an often harsh environment with bushlands and deserts to get lost in. Add in some cyclones, hailstones the size of cricket balls, rip currents, the risk of skin cancer and a plethora of other potentially dangerous stuff. With all of this in mind, you’d be forgiven for thinking that AUSTRALIA IS TRYING TO KILL YOU!

That’s the premise of my new book, The Australia Survival Guide, which I’ve been working on since about August last year. Aimed at kids 8 and up, this non-fiction book has been a joy to research and write. I’ve been discovering all sorts of fascinating things about our country. And it’s not all doom and gloom. While I do focus on the dangerous stuff, I also look at how to survive it all and enjoy this wonderful, awe-inspiring land of ours.

This book has been a bit different for me. I’m mostly known for writing adventurous fiction for kids. While I’ve written lots of educational non-fic as well, this is my first go at commercial non-fiction. So, although it certainly will be educational, the book is also out to entertain. It’s my goal to make the possibility of DEATH in Australia kinda fun. :-)

A draft manuscript is complete and I’m currently working through edits and fact-checking, with the aim of publication in late 2019 by Penguin Random House. Keep an eye on my website, as I’ll be sharing more info about this book in coming months… that is, of course, assuming Australia doesn’t kill me first.

BTW… don’t go poking any snakes with sticks. Especially not venomous one.

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2018 wrap up

Blimey… what a year! 2018 was busy. Real busy! Like, super busy! Lots of writing and touring and speaking. It was all pretty amazing!

The big thing was, of course, the publication of the OTHER WORLDS series. Four sci-fi/fantasy/adventure books for kids aged 8 and up. Books 1 and 2 came out in February and books 3 and 4 came out in May. I then spent a large chunk of the year promoting them, with tours in Melbourne, Sydney, Queensland and Tasmania.

Only one educational book saw publication this year – Playing to Win, a reader in Macmillan’s Talk About Books series. There will be a lot more next year.

I had stories in two kids’ anthologies – “Dreaming the Win” in Speccy-tacular AFL Stories (Penguin) and “The Christmas Trap” in A Miniature Christmas (Christmas Press).

There were a couple of award shortlistings. OTHER WORLDS 3: Game World was shortlisted for the K-Zone Toy of the Year Awards (Best Book). You Choose: Footy Fever was shortlisted for the REAL Awards (Fiction For Younger Readers). This set of awards includes the YABBAs in Melbourne and the KOALAs in Sydney, and resulted in another tour (read about it here). I didn’t win either of these, but really, just getting nominated is so COOL!

But the biggest, most exhausting aspect of 2018, was all the speaking. Aside from all the touring, I also did several festivals – The Queenscliffe Literary Festival, the Bayside Literary Festival and the Tamar Valley Writers Festival. And in addition to that, I had an increase in school and library bookings, especially during term 3 around the time of Book Week. Here are the stats…

  • 71 schools
  • 9 libraries
  • 4 festivals/conventions
  • 3 teacher/librarian events
  • 2 Writers Centre events
  • 2 Probus/retiree events

Bringing the grand total to – 193 individual sessions.

Just going back over this makes me feel quite tired.  :-)

As a result of all the travelling and speaking, I didn’t end up writing as much as the previous year. I wrote half of a new non-fiction book for Penguin (I’m still working on this and will tell you more soon), 7 short school readers and a few short stories.

2019 has now begun, and I’m busy scribbling away. And bookings for speaking gigs have already come flooding in. Looks like it’s gonna be another busy one!

Happy New Year!

PS. Loved the new series of Doctor Who. Jodie Whittaker is ACE!

 

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Merry Christmas

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Authors on a bus!

A bunch of authors and illustrators touring around Melbourne and Sydney on a mini-bus with a publicist… what could possibly go wrong?

Well… aside from being mobbed by an entire school’s worth of kids desperate for the bag of lollies I was about to distribute on Halloween; and being made to impersonate a meerkat on stage at an awards ceremony (I can’t really explain this one. You just had to be there.)… it all went pretty well, actually.

Why was this all happening? Because of the YABBA and KOALA awards – one Melbourne based, the other Sydney based, but both fed from the same shortlist of books nominated by kids from across the country. Celebrating their shortlisted authors, Penguin Random House decided to tour some of them during the two weeks surrounding the awards ceremonies.

In Melbourne I was with authors RA Spratt, Tim Harris, Belinda Murrell and Tristan Bancks, and illustrator James Hart. In Sydney, Tristan was swapped out for Felice Arena, with illustrator Tom Jellett being added into the mix. Authors usually tour on their own when promoting a new book, which can be a bit lonely… so this tour, with a cast of thousands, was quite the novelty.

Over the two weeks, we visited 13 schools, 16 bookstores and attended the two awards ceremonies. It was a travelling roadshow of creativity, comedy, inspiration and insanity. Storytelling, reading, drawing, dancing, shouting, trumpet-blowing and lots of other strange things happened as we took kids through our creative processes. It was an absolute privilege to share the stage with this wonderful group of people, creating bonds of performance and camaraderie. I learned so much from watching them present, and even more from the publishing industry conversations we had on the bus between schools.

The YABBAs and the KOALAs are an extraordinary set of awards, giving kids the chance to nominate and vote for their favourite Aussie books. And the organisers, who are all volunteers, do an amazing amount of work putting these awards together, as well as generally promoting Australian books, authors and illustrators. All of us who were on the tour felt greatly honoured to have been shortlisted.

And now for the winners … [insert drum roll] …

In addition to the standard awards, there were also a couple of special awards to recognise particular authors’ contribution to Australian children’s literature. Meredith Costain, one of the hardest working children’s authors I have ever met, received the Graham Davey Citation at the YABBA awards. And Belinda Murrell was named the 2018 KOALA Legend. Of course, we already knew she was a legend. This just formalised it. :-)

I’ll finish things off with a transcript of my mini-speech from the KOALA awards. Each of the nominated people were asked to speak for about two minutes on one of the topics from the Australian Children’s Laureate “Stories Make Us…” calendar. Here’s what I said…

Stories make us creative. Stories make us connected. They make us hopeful, inspired, determined, honest, clever, curious, cheeky and thoughtful. Stories make us celebrate.

Yes, stories make us all of these things, and so much more.

In theory, I’m supposed to pick one word from the list I’ve just read and speak about it. But I’m not gonna do that. No. I’m gonna add two of my own words instead.

Because… Stories make us rebellious. They show us how important it is to be ourselves and to do things in our own unique ways. From Tom Sawyer to Lyra Silvertongue to Katniss Everdeen… characters and their stories can make us realise the importance of sometimes defying authority, bucking the system and being true to ourselves.

And writing stories has also given me a taste for rebellion, as I have discovered the joys of breaking grammatical rules, making up my own words and occasionally subverting stereotypes and expectations.

But — putting rebellion aside — if I had to choose one definitive word to use in the context of “Stories make us…”, it would be “HAPPY”.

Never underestimate the importance and significance of the happiness that stories can bring into people’s lives. The pure joy of being captivated by and lost in a story.

Yep! Stories make me happy!

For a complete set of pics from the tour, check out the Instagram hashtags #yabbatour and #koalatour2018

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